NHRA TAKES STEPS TO PRESENT IMPROVED CHRR
The NHRA California Hot Rod Rod Reunion returns to Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Ca., this weekend with a show race officials hope will present the best-ever experience for race fans of the nostalgia persuasion.
The CHRR has returned to its 2015 format, with improvements intended to rekindle those moments which made the event a must-attend affair.
One of the key areas focused on for this year's event, according to Executive Director of the NHRA Motorsports Museum Larry Fisher, was the Cacklefest.
"We worked with the track to make a couple of improvements that we’ll be doing push starts on the return road as we did in the past," Fisher explained. "The other big thing is we went up and reviewed all of the pit spaces and talked to the participants and also listened to what spectators had to say, so we’ve widened the aisles between the pits out to 30 feet so that spectators have more access.
"And then in the Cacklefest area as well as some of the other large display cars before you get to the Top Fuel pits from the Funny Car pits, we’ve extended the length of their pits to give them more room to work. But in the Cacklefest pits, in particular, we’ve lengthened the pit to allow for a display area at the end of each pit for the cars, so it gives more room around the cars and better visibility, and makes it easier for people to take pictures and that sort of thing."
Another significant change to Auto Club Famoso Raceway was the installation of guardrail in front of the tower-side grandstands, a move Fisher said, was necessary for the Cacklefest cars to do return road push-starts.
"That’s a safety improvement for the cars and drivers," Fisher explained. "If for any reason they were to get snagged in that chain link fence, this will be a much safer barrier. So we put that in place, and that will improve the safety, but at the same time it’s not an obstruction for the view of the spectators."
Fisher said not only was this move important for the safety of the drivers but for the spectators as well.
"If you look at Las Vegas, for example, there’s a concrete wall, and then the stands are up, raised up a few feet," Fisher said. "Each track has a different way. Some of them have a grass median that helps separate it, but in this case, you know it just was an upgrade that was long needed, and for us to be able to continue to do the Cacklefest safely we just wanted to make sure we improved there. We worked with the Bowsers and laid out a plan for it, and the museum made it happen."
With a 2015 CHRR which created a bit of controversy over new Cacklefest regulations, and even more hard feelings, the goal of this year's outing was to restore the passion of the Cacklefest for this event, the original Heritage Series event.
"The whole Cacklefest phenomenon started with the Reunions and that original group of nine cars have grown to, and today there’s more than 200 cars that have been either recreated or restored and to be a part of the Cacklefest phenomenon," Fisher explained. "So it’s a big part of the event. We look at it on particularly on Saturday night there’s kind of the big grand finale. It’s very popular with fans, and particularly for the museum, it carries forward the message of our commitment to living history and encouraging people to preserve and restore and care for these cars.
"It’s amazing how many, today, how many more original cars are being brought out of garages and brought back to life, really because of the Cacklefest. It creates a way, and not just our Cacklefest but other events around the country where these guys can bring these cars out and they have an audience for them that encourages the preservation of them. I was just visiting with a friend of the museum earlier this week who pulled a Funny Car, a Mustang Funny Car out of a trailer where it actually had been welded inside the trailer for 18 years."
Fisher says as many as 40 cars are already entered to participate in Saturday evening's Cacklefest.
In addition to the Cacklefest, Fisher says the racing will have its own kind of excitement as championships come down to the wire in the Heritage Series.
Because the Boise Heritage event was rained out with three eliminators unfinished, the finals of Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Mod will be completed on Friday in Bakersfield.
Additionally, the event will add for the first time a Nostalgia Super Stock class.
"It's an experiment this year, and if it goes well, we’re going to carry it forward," Fisher confirmed. "We’ve started with a Nostalgia Super Stock class. There are so many guys that are restoring those cars and getting them out and racing them that they approached us, a group of car owners and said, ‘Hey, can we split off and have our own class?"
In the end, Fisher hopes, those who attend will have a great time.
" I hope everybody comes out and there’s a lot going on, something every night," Fisher explained. "Thursday, Friday, and Saturday too. There’s a lot to do after the racing stops. The honoree reception Friday night at the Doubletree, that’s free. And then afterward, we’ll fire up a few of the cars that are new to the Cacklefest. Set four or five cars out in the parking lot and make some noise and rattle some windows, so that will be cool."